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There’s always something to howl about

UVEX missses the Cluetrain

“… learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”The Cluetrain Manifesto, Chapter 1

Until I resigned yesterday, I was a Web marketing consultant for the US distributors of UVEX products for 7 years.

Last week, after the IOC demanded that we remove anything Lindsey Vonn related from the US web site,  I posted a limerick to UVEXsports.com congratulating Lindsey for her downhill win without using her name while simultaneously exposing the IOC’s shameful tactics.

(This is an organization that goes out of its way to menace local pizza joints that use the word “Olympics” in their names. )

By Friday, my rejoinder had been picked up by SlashDot and from there, landed on BigPicture.com (Barry Ritholtz’s blog), which was picked up by USA Today, and just this morning the NY Post ran a blurb (which noted that the post was now gone without explanation).

This, of course, was exactly the reaction I was hoping for and the commercial justification for the post. Easily half of the comments were a variation on “Good for you. Screw the IOC. I never heard of UVEX before, now I will buy your stuff.”

The IOC, apparently, was not pleased.

The saddest part of the reaction from UVEX’s German management (knuckle under and kill the blog) is that it reinforces to the IOC that its strong-arm tactics work.

At the same time, UVEX  rejected an opportunity to  grow their brand by empowering a human being to speak on their behalf in a human voice, which — as Doc Searls and company pointed out in the Cluetrain over a decade ago —  is a powerful way for brands to leverage the Web.

People reacted to that post because we are sick and tired of big business using lawyers to get their way whether or not what they want is legally, morally, or ethically justified. We all know that it doesn’t matter who is right, what matters is who can pay the most lawyers the longest and that is rarely the little guy.

The “Streisand Effect” is a way to fight back, and in this battle, “the little guy” can include brands that learn to find their human voice. When that happens, when  people realize that there are real people behind a logo who agree with them and respect their views, and they are entertained in the process, brands are rewarded with new, loyal customers.

Too bad that UVEX lacked the bälle to keep the conversation going.

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